I waited for my section to be called.  I was jammed into an unforgiving hard plastic seat against a wall in a far wing of the Dulles airport.  The passenger throngs were thick and deafening.  I hung my head in quiet desperation.

Lines of harried folks jostled each other.  A 40-ish businessman wrestled to rearrange his carry-ons in front of me.  In the process, a small parcel flipped out of a side pocket and landed neatly and discreetly between my feet.  He rushed on, shoved ahead by anxious people in back of him.  He was gone.

I looked down.  It was a money clip fashioned for a golfer.  And sandwiched in the clip were 3 neatly folded twenty dollar bills.

I took note of the passenger’s face as he disappeared through the gate entrance, and when I boarded, I made a mental note of his seat number as I passed.  I could have attempted a pass-off as I went by, but he was already boxed into a window seat, flanked by 2 other people – one attempting to mash a guitar case into the overhead compartment.  It was a classic cattle-car cluster, so I waited until we were airborne and drinks were being served.

I handed the clip to the flight attendant and asked if she would return it, which she promptly did.

When the carts had cleared the aisle, I saw him get up and make his way back to my section.

He held up the clip with the sixty bucks.  “This clip has such sentimental value and I would have felt terrible if I’d lost it.  But the money was still there.  Man, this is no joke – you restored my faith in humanity today.”  We shook hands.

I watched him navigate his way back to his seat.  Pointing to me.  Exclaiming to other passengers.

I didn’t know his name.

I didn’t owe him anything.

I could have kept the money.

I looked out my window and smiled to myself.

Restoring faith in humanity doesn’t always cost much.  For that guy, the tab was only $60.  A bargain.

For him and me.